Phone, Text Bans Not Stopping Accidents: Report

Insurance Group studied results before and after new laws

By Joe Krebs
|  Friday, Jan 29, 2010  |  Updated 11:01 AM EDT
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Phone, Text Bans Not Stopping Accidents: Report

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Think the ban on hand-held phones and texting while driving will reduce crashes?  A new report shows conflicting information.

A new study by the Highway Loss Data Institute found “no reductions in crashes after hand-held phone bans take effect.”

The group studied insurance claims in four jurisdictions, including D.C., comparing statistics before and after the bans and comparing them with nearby jurisdictions that don’t have bans.

The study concluded that: “Month to month fluctuations in rates of collision claims in jurisdictions with bans didn’t change from before to after the laws were enacted. Nor did the patterns change in comparison with trends in jurisdictions that didn’t have such laws.”

"The laws aren’t reducing crashes, even though we know that such laws have reduced hand-held phone use, and several studies have established that phoning while driving increases crash risk,” said Adrian Lund, president of both the HLDI and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Intuitively, that seems like a major contradiction.

 “We’re currently gathering data to figure out this mismatch,” Lund said.

One possible answer might be, as the HLDI points out, drivers in states with hand-held phone bans might be switching to hands-free devices.

But a study funded by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that the effects of cell phone use on driver attention is about the same whether it’s hands-free or a hand-held cell phone.

“The distracting factor is the conversation -- not the device itself,” said John Townsend II, AAA’s Mid-Atlantic Manager of Public and Government Affairs.

The real danger is distracted driving, according to AAA.

The HLDI is a nonprofit research organization that is sponsored by the automobile insurance industry, according to the International Risk Management Institute.

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